The timing was unfortunate to say the least, but it merely underlines the fact that short-termism in politics rarely comes without its down side. Unionists have been doing their utmost to emphasise that the result of the referendum should be accepted by those who voted Yes, by which they mean the campaign for independence should be shelved for at least a generation - as Alex Salmond said it would be - or, better still, shelved permanently. There was even a suggestion that it should be written into the constitution that Scottish independence is illegal. That is only one reason why Nicola Sturgeon was wrong to suggest that Scotland should have a veto, if the rUK votes to leave the EU. Her suggestion would mean that irrespective of how much support there was for leaving membership of the EU, in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, Scotland should be able to stop the exodus in the event that a majority of Scots voted to remain in the EU.
For a party that has spent over 70 years complaining of the lack of democratic control in Scotland, because of Westminster's lack of concern for Scottish interests, to suggest that 5 million people should be able to subvert the decision of almost 60 million, is hardly going to be taken seriously. Ironically, Ms Sturgeon has been let off lightly, both by the other parties and the mainstream media. Of far greater importance, Ms Sturgeon has opened the door for Unionists to suggest a quid pro quo, the next time Scots demand either another referendum on independence, or build up such a pressure for independence, that a majority of seats in Holyrood or of Scotland's Westminster contingent, for parties which support independence, will be considered sufficient for independence negotiations to take place. That was the original policy of the SNP and recent opinion polls show it is perfectly possible in the current climate. Within days of Ms Sturgeon's statement, two opinion polls showed that if there was a general election now, the SNP would have a majority of both the popular vote and seats for Scottish constituencies in Westminster. MORI gave the SNP 54% of the vote and 52 parliamentary seats, YouGov gave them 52% of the vote and 47 seats. Other polls showed that over 50% of Scots want another referendum within five years, while 66% want one within the next ten years.
Why was Nicola Sturgeon wrong to suggest Scotland should have a veto on the result of a UK referendum which says the UK should leave the EU? There are two reasons, both of which are likely to cause problems for the SNP in the future. The first is the assumption Scots will vote Yes to remain in the EU, more of which below; the second is perhaps more dangerous for the future of the independence movement. She has elevated what was no more than a referendum campaign soundbite to be one of the central pillars of the Treaty of Union of 1707. When David Cameron said, "The UK is a family of nations", he no more meant that to be taken literally than any of the other promises that he made of "more powers to the Scottish people". In time, a very short time, the comment would have been dismissed, as it should have been, had Nicola not given it a life of its own. Some Unionists have suggested that like Baldrick, Nicola "has a cunning plan" to disrupt Westminster and to continue to build on the energy in the independence movement, created by the referendum campaign. If making life difficult for Westminster was behind the move, it might have some merit, but Nicola has also said that a majority of seats for independence parties in the next Westminster election, will not be sufficient to declare independence. That suggests that disrupting Westminster is not going to be a serious consideration, as winning a majority of seats has far more validity than allowing 8.7% of the population to have a veto on the decisions of the other 91.3%.
By opening this Pandora's Box, Nicola has given Unionists the opportunity to use it to claim a veto on any future decision of the Scottish people to vote for independence. Cameron and other government figures have initially dismissed out of hand, any veto on the EU for Scots, which is no more than might be expected. If however, the mood in Scotland shifts, as it has done since the referendum, we can expect the veto claim to be resurrected swiftly, but by Unionist politicians this time. A number of letters have already appeared in newspapers, asking if Nicola would expect the rest of the UK, or any part of the rest of the UK, to have a veto on any future decision of the Scots to declare Scotland independent. Of course there has been no reply because there is no reply that could possibly retain the notion of a Scots' veto and at the same time, recognise the sovereignty of the Scottish people. There would be absolute outrage in Scotland at any suggestion that we should be denied the right to independence, on the votes of people in other parts of the UK and if the SNP persists in taking this line we can be certain there will be serious demands for a quid pro quo.
Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP are wrong to assume Scots will vote Yes to continued membership of the EU, although the notion of giving Scots a veto is based on that assumption. If Scotland voted NO to continued membership, the veto would not be necessary. A referendum on membership of the EU while Scotland is still a part of the UK, would be a different animal from a referendum on the EU if Scotland was an independent country. Whatever shortcomings exist in Westminster's guardianship of Scottish interests in the EU - fishing is only one example of many - Scots will view the size of the UK including Scotland, as a better bet to fight EU power and bureaucracy, than Scotland on its own. There are currently 751 MEPs in the European Parliament of which the UK has 73 or 9.7% of the total, of which Scotland's share is 8. If Scotland were in the EU as a sovereign state, we would have 13 seats or 1.7% of the total, the same as Denmark, Finland and Slovakia. The SNP has consistently complained about being at a disadvantage in the Commons, how much greater would the disadvantage be in the European Parliament?
As many as 36% of Scots have regularly expressed their desire to leave the EU with just under 50% wishing to stay in, but that is before any campaign on membership has even been conducted. The SNP refuse point blank to consider a referendum on the EU in an independent Scotland, despite 67% of Scots saying they want a referendum on membership. The SNP arrogantly claims a referendum is not necessary and constantly over estimates the support for the EU in Scotland, as the election of the first UKIP MEP and successive opinion polls have shown. The arguments the SNP make for continued membership of the EU are exactly the same as the arguments Unionists make for continued membership of the UK. It is all about jobs, trade, disruption of industry, with a complete absence of any mention of democratic control, sovereignty, bureaucracy and neglect of Scottish interests. Right from the outset, Independence in Europe was an oxymoron and the increase in centralised control in the EU, since the SNP adopted the slogan, makes it even more of an oxymoron. More and more Scots have recognised as much and now view the EU with increased suspicion. The SNP is out of kilter with the views of the Scottish people and if it continues to assume it can push the Scottish people to adopt membership of the EU on their sayso, that will soon be brought home to them. Nicola is coming to office with a great deal of goodwill on the part of the membership of the SNP. She should not waste it by ignoring their fears for the future.